I first met Mike on a sunny July afternoon while touring a Midwestern college campus. At the time the school was all male with an enrollment of about 2,000. |
That was the beginning…
Between my junior and senior years in high school, my friend, Dennis, and I drove up for a campus tour because my options of engineering colleges were limited to those I could afford from my own limited resources. Unfortunately our hometown college, which was easily the most economical, didn’t offer a suitable curriculum. The other institution fit the bill because I thought I could manage the finances, and it was only an hour away. Those were the days before boys and girls believed they were entitled to continuing education paid for by somebody else—meaning their parents. Most graduates either got local jobs, which were plentiful, or joined a branch of the armed services. Me, I wanted to attend college, and my folks encouraged me to do so. That said, tuition was my responsibility, but my parents offered to help with board and books. I figured I could get about halfway through by getting summer jobs between college terms. After that I planned to apply for a student loan.
On the day of the tour another prospective student and his father waited with us at the administration building. The son was tall, about my height, with a blond flattop haircut. I overheard they were from St. Joseph, Michigan. We did not exchange greetings other than curious, detached glances. Both father (Les) and son (Mike) shared the same exact name, but I didn’t learn that until a year and a half later.
During the tour Dennis and I simply gawked and remained silent as the tour guide gave his practiced sales pitch. The other two, however, were full of questions many of which I thought were of the brown-nosing variety or an attempt to feign astuteness about the college experience. Afterwards we parted company without a backward glance.
During my remaining high school year, I continued to pursue entry to various colleges and universities by applying for financial aid or some kind of scholarship only to be confronted by the reality that either the tuition was beyond reach, and/or my scholastic and athletic achievements were mediocre at best. The latter was no surprise to me, but I figured maybe I’d catch some administrator asleep at the switch. What? Nothing ventured...right? (A few years later my talented brother got full ride scholarship offers from over one-hundred universities nationwide further highlighting my pedestrian ability. Hey, I bask in the glow of modest achievement.) Satisfied that I completed all probable due diligence, I enrolled at the college where Dennis and I toured.
It was a pleasant September autumn afternoon when my father and brothers dropped me off at the dormitory steps and drove off. Freshman were required to arrive a week before upper classmen for class registration and orientation. The dorm was brand, spanking new and had the smell of freshly finished furniture and plaster to prove it. I schlepped my belongings to an assigned room on the second floor, and noted from clothes hanging in the closet that my roommate had arrived, but was not present. I unpacked and headed for the rec room, which was full of excited, noisy first termers like me. Before I could get a good look around, a familiar face stepped in front of me, held out his hand, and said, “Hi, I’m Michael Glossinger.” That was the beginning of a lifelong friendship.
Mike’s room was two doors from mine, we had the same major, and were serious students—Mike because that was the way he was, and me because I had to be diligent in order to stay in school especially in the midst of students who were likely better in math and science than me. With my limited finances, I could neither afford to flunk or drop a class. I also found out that in engineering school each professor figured his was the only class you were taking. They loaded on the work, which caused a heavy attrition rate among incoming freshman. Almost one-third flunked out that first year including both of our roommates.
Starting that very first term, Mike and I usually had breakfast together at the school cafeteria; and dinner at one of the downtown beaneries. I also met, through Mike, a blond, affable Pennsylvanian named Jim Graham. The three of us remained tight throughout college talking about our girlfriends back home, long-term plans, and pledged the same fraternity. After graduation Mike remained in the Midwest, but I headed for the west coast for work, and so did Graham to fly for the Navy. It turned out Graham and I were each other’s best man when those first wedding bells chimed. We were well out of school by then. Mike married the summer before senior year, and his wife, Sharon, presented him with a son by graduation.
Although by nature, Mike was a pretty serious guy, he did have another side. The Michigan Highway Patrol clocked Mike at 130 MPH (yes, it made the St. Joe paper) on his silver-gray Triumph motorcycle and gave chase. When he lost them from his sight line he pulled to the side of the road under some large Maple trees in a familiar neighborhood, lit up a cigarette, and started a conversation with a nearby friend. The troopers went by slowly, giving the casually lounging Mike and the Triumph a close eye then proceeded to look for the speeder. Mike said his motorcycle gave off a chameleon-like glow of green, reflecting the color of the leaves. He also came up with the most ingenious “headache” that I have ever heard foisted on a poor fraternity pledge. Headaches were difficult assignments handed out by fraternity brothers to each individual of the pledge class. The idea was to have an excuse to give the pledge a black mark for incompletion. Example: As a pledge, I received a headache to find out the last time a Civil War cannon on campus was fired. Naturally, there was no way of obtaining the information, so I went to the chem. lab, made some gun powder and a crude fuse, and fired it off myself one late Saturday night. There were some serious repercussions, but that’s another story. Here a physics headache posed by Mike: “A guy is sitting on the can and drops a 200 gram septic log. His sphincter is 4.0 inches above the water line (Note the mixed English and Metric units) He accelerates the turd with a fart 3.5 inches per second squared. What I want to know is will the water splash his ass?” Believe it or not the pledge went to the physics lab and figured it out. (The guy’s bum got wet.)
I hooked up with Mike in 2010 and 2011 at our fraternity reunions. Other than wearing hearing aids and sporting some gray hair, he looked pretty much the same as when we attended college together. It turned out Mike got a bit of flack from his hometown pastor back in the day. Sigma Mu Sigma was founded in the 1920s by students who were freemasons. Both Mike and I happened to be Lutherans (pronounced Luth-erns by the uninitiated), but his synod was like “Shiite” Lutherans; that is, they believed Masons were basically hell bound. Note: My dad was a super, duper honcho in the order, a veritable “Shiite” Mason. Anyway, Mike’s hometown paper printed that he joined a Masonic fraternity (it wasn’t) and he got a bit of a talking to. In the end Mike convinced his pastor all was well. After we left undergraduate school, Sigma Mu Sigma merged with Acacia (AKAK), also with mildly sinister Masonic undertones.
This is the end…
The animal species called human is, as far as I know, the only species that realizes it will die. We write songs about death, write poems about it, talk incessantly about it as we grow closer to it; and even prepare for death while we’re alive. Sheesh, what a buzz kill! The reason I bring it up is because I just learned this week that my friend, Mike Glossinger, passed into that mysterious abyss. It’s like a piece of me is gone, y’know?
I can still hear his voice announcing loudly as we enter the fraternity house as pledges, “Lester Michael Glossinger now entering the Alpha chapter of…”
God’s Peace, my friend. I miss you.
Copyright 2015 by Gene Myers: a humble aspirant who dreams of time travel; of driving the Weenermobile in the Indy 500; and maintains delusions of adequacy.
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